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Using Herbs in Medicine and Cooking

Updated on July 5, 2013
Rows of herbs at La Vista
Rows of herbs at La Vista | Source

For thousands of years, herbs have been used to treat and prevent disease as well as to enhance our cooking.

Our farmer’s wife, Crystal, is a master herbalist. Since she and Eric came to La Vista in 2010, Crystal has introduced our shareholders to new herbs and the many ways to use them. She makes medicines in tincture form, as well as uses herbs in balms, salves and teas.

Crystal's herb garden
Crystal's herb garden | Source

Herbs in Tinctures

An herbal tincture or extract is commonly used for various ailments by rubbing it on the skin or taking it as a supplement. You don’t need many supplies to make a tincture but what you do use should be high quality.

· an herb, preferably fresh

· a good alcohol base such as vodka or rum

· a clean wide-mouth jar with tight-fitting lid

· cheesecloth or muslin

The point of a tincture is not to cause drunkenness but to provide the strongest possible concentration of an herb’s healing essence. The water content in fresh herbs will dilute the alcohol so the percentage of alcohol will be lower in the tincture.

Using a ratio of 2:1 herb to alcohol put the herbs in a jar and pour enough alcohol to cover them completely.

Make sure the herbs are completely covered by the alcohol. Cover the jar, shake it, and store it in a cool dark place for up to two weeks. Every once in a while shake the jar. After a couple weeks, strain the tincture through the cloth into another clean jar and store in a cool dry place. Most tincture recipes call for one tablespoon taken at mealtime at least once a day.

Using Herbs in Infusions

Making an infusion is another way to use herbs. The difference between an infusion and a simple tea is that the infusion uses a much larger quantity of herb in the water. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best. You can drink infusions or use them in a poultice, compress, skin wash or sitz baths.

You need:

· one ounce by weight (or about a cup by volume) of dried herb

· a quart jar with a lid

· boiling water

· cheesecloth or muslin

Put the herb in the jar and fill it to the top with boiling water. Cover the jar, let the mixture steep for 4-10 hours and then strain it with the cloth. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is typical.

Herbs and their medicinal and culinary uses

Medicinal properties
Culinary uses
Use to relieve colds, flu and digestive upsets.
Use in salads and soups, eat fresh with tomatoes and mozzarella; perfect in tomato sauce.
Use to relieve indigestion and flatulence. Relieves menstrual discomforts. If consumed by breastfeeding mothers, helps to relieve colic.
Great in fresh salsa, chili and Mexican food. Add to salads, soups and veggies wraps
Rich in mineral salts, dill is useful in a salt-free diet. Dill water is useful for flatulence, indigestion, and colic. Used by breastfeeding mothers to soothe baby.
Use fresh in salads and to flavor soups, meats, fish, potatoes, eggs, and pickles.
Lemon Balm
Called "the elixir of life" lemon balm has aromatic, cooling, sedative properties and acts as a natural insect repellent. It's good for depression and nervousness. Can be used to treat bee and wasp stings.
Make lemon balm tea simply by infusing the leaves in water for a few hours. Use fresh in salads. Add to fish or game.
Relieves digestive problems and soothes fevers. Has an uplifting aroma
Use in cold summer drinks, add to salads, create mint sauce or jelly.
Used to treat arthritis, lung conditions, parasitic and bacterial infections, upset stomach, menstrual problems, and urinary tract problems.
Use in soups, sauces, pasta, and on meats, pizza, and roasted veggies.
Aids in digestion, fluid retention, arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Contains vitamins, minerals and iron. Eat fresh leaves for bad breath.
Add raw to salads. Use to flavor soups, egg, potato, and fish dishes.
Drink sage tea at the first signs of respiratory infections. Effective gargle for sore throats.
Use to flavor meats, cream sauces, and stuffing. Blend chopped sage with cheese or butter.
Summer Savory
Use to soothe digestive problems, menstrual disorders, use to treat wasp and bee stings, loosens congestion
Adds peppery flavor to soups, stews, beans, sauces and meats.
Infusion aids in digestion, combine infusion with honey for sore throats and coughs. Helps with asthma.
Use to flavor soups, chicken, fish, and white wine sauces.
The ingredients for making Crystal's herbal lemonade and the finished project.
The ingredients for making Crystal's herbal lemonade and the finished project. | Source

Herbal lemonade

Crystal is "famous" for her herbal lemonade. This is a popular drink that she makes when shareholders get together and at our open houses.

You need:

· water

· ice

· 3 lemons, sliced

· 3 T pure lemon juice (preferably organic)

· 1/16 tsp powdered stevia

· few sprigs of fresh mint

· small bunch of lemon balm

· seasonal edible flowers such as violets and dandelion flowers

Fill a sun tea jar with purified water. Add lemon balm and mint. Let the herbs infuse in the water for an hour or more in a sunny window. Add the stevia and lemon juice. Stir well. Add ice and lemons. Garnish with edible flowers.

Crystal demonstrates making her herbal lemonade

This is one of a series of hubs about La Vista Community Supported Garden in Godfrey, Illinois. I joined La Vista in 2005 and became a member of its board of directors a year later. This series – La Vista: Nurturing land and people – shares the struggles and triumphs of operating a CSA and the benefits of membership. I hope you find this series useful and interesting and, as always, feel free to leave a comment.


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    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Mia for reading and the vote up!

    • Momma Mia profile image

      Momma Mia 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very nice an informative hub!! Thankyou for sharing this with us here at Hubpages! Vote up and more!!



    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I'm glad you found this to be a good resource, almasi. Thanks for reading and bookmarking!

    • almasi profile image

      almasi 6 years ago

      Thanks for a very useful resource. I especially like the chart. Bookmarked.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Guanta for reading and commenting. Hope you like the lemonade, it's refreshing on these hot summer days.

    • Guanta profile image

      Guanta 6 years ago from New York City

      Thank you Danette Watt, wonderful Hub. Great video as well. Im going to try the lemonade, but on a smaller scale. Looking forward to your series.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks raeyecarlos! I'm glad you found the info helpful and thanks for stopping by to read.

    • raeyecarlos profile image

      raeyecarlos 6 years ago

      Great hub. I've always loved using herbs when I cook. It's wonderful to get more information on their benefits and other uses.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks fashion! I hope you'll stop by to read and comment on some of my other hubs.

    • profile image

      fashion 6 years ago

      This is very interesting article.Well done.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      thanks for your comments. I'm glad you found it useful and happened to come across it.

    • profile image

      c-bless 6 years ago

      I'm glad I came across this article. You provided lots of good information. Thank you for sharing.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dee and Maren

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Love the chart!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hey, Congratulations on being selected hub of the day! As I said when I first read this-This Hub Rocks!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks everyone!

      Flora, I can relate - I love my mochas too.

      Carlness - I don't know anything about using rosemary but if I find out, I will be sure to revise this hub.

    • carlness profile image

      carlness 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Great hub! I have been thinking about this for a while. I read somewhere that rosemary is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Do you know anything about this? Awesome + 1 voteup :)

    • profile image

      Liola Lee 6 years ago

      I am very interested in alternative medicine. My grandfather was a practising G.P (General Practitioner/Doctor) who had an Apothecary attached to the family house. He used to prescribe herbal medicine alongside more conventional treatments. I never knew my grandfather as he died in the late 1920s when my father was just a tiny boy. I guess my interest may be hereditary. On a trip to Goa a few years ago we visited a spice farm. It was a truly enriching experience as they educated us in the use of spices and herbs in medicine. Many thanks to you for sharing what you know!!

    • kenhubs profile image

      kenhubs 6 years ago

      You've given us wonderful information in this hub, keep it up. Many people are not aware of the wonders of herbs, fruits and vegetables; especially when you consider today's busy lifestyles and over-dependence on fast foods.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Awesome Hub, it is very informative. Keep up the good work, and congratulations for being picked as Hub of the Day! :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Congratulations on your Hub of the day recognition. I have never made my own herbal remedy, but I have taken them quite frequently. Echinelin (spelling?) I have taken both in pill form and the tincture form you mention. And herbal tea, well, that is a classic for sure. Not in the morning though, as I need my caffiene and I'm not a coffee drinker unless it is a mocha-love chocolate. I'll have to try the herbal lemonade. I've never made it. will bookmark for future medicinal reference.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thank you everyone for your comments and congratulations to me; I appreciate every one of them.

      I was pleasantly surprised to get the email that this had been chosen Hub of the Day and I sincerely hope you all do find the information useful and of good value.

      I'm coming up to my 1-year mark in a couple months and have found the members of Hub Pages to be very supportive. For that I am grateful as well as for the opportunity to learn new skills here.

    • cherylscott profile image

      cherylscott 6 years ago from US

      Wonderful hub!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a wonderful and very informative hub, Danette, and a great reference source. Congratulations on getting the Hub of the Day award - you certainly deserve it! Voted useful and interesting.

    • hazelbrown profile image

      hazelbrown 6 years ago from Central PA

      YUM! That herbal lemonade looks AMAZING! Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on Hub of the Day for this worthy hub!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

      Hub of the day! woohoo way to go. This was an excellent hub and a great choice they made to feature it :)

    • applecsmith profile image

      Carrie Smith 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Congrats on getting featured as the Hub of the Day! Very informative and the lemonade looks delicious. I'll have to try it sometime.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Congratulations on earning the Hub of the Day Award. You did an excellent job on this hub and it's great to see it getting recognition. Also, you know your topic well because of your ongoing involvement with La Vista, its staff and volunteers.

    • BethanRose profile image

      BethanRose 6 years ago from South Wales

      Such a helpful hub and it really shows that natural things are so beneficial! Thanks! Voted up:)

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      Congratulation for the hub of the day. This is a great hub and very useful for me as I am interested in any kinds of herbs. Thanks for sharing. Consider bookmark. Voted Up!

    • profile image

      adeaugustus 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this, and congratulation on being the hub of the day! Herb as always been the strongest medication in Africa, and it great help can not me under mime, it good of you to realize that. Voted up and useful.

    • ShootersCenter profile image

      David 6 years ago from Florida

      Great hub, I grow my own veggies and herbs but never really thought about medicinal use. Keep up the good work

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      I guess I must have missed this one while I was on vacation but this is fantastic! I'm definitely bookmarking it. And may I be the first to wish you congrats on your hub of the day!!! :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks RTalloni, I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      A great hub to bookmark for reference--well done!

      Voted up and helpful.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Simone, thanks for stopping by to read my hub! We are so used to reaching for the medicine bottle that we forget herbs were used for medicinal purposes long before the local drugstore came into being.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Ah-HAH! So THAT'S what an herbal tincture is! This is a great Hub, and a wonderful resource! I'll have to try out some of these remedies. I've always wondered about the efficacy of such things, and I suppose the only way to really know if they work is to try them on oneself!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      @justmesuzanne - Thanks for stopping by to read my hub and for the votes.

      @Christin - If you're ever out this way and want a tour of La Vista, let me know, I'll arrange it.

      @HBN - The lemonade definitely presents beautifully with the lemon slices, herbs and flowers. Thanks for all the votes up!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Wow! What an awesome hub full of such healthy and useful information. And I loved the photos, especially the one of the ingredients for Crystal's herbal lemonade. It made me feel refreshed just looking at that lovely layout! Voted up in all categories except funny.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 6 years ago from Midwest

      Great hub - I love the layout and how well you explain the tinctures and various herbals. The garden is beautiful. Herbal balms and oils are very fun to make. We do comfrey salve every year to keep on hand and nothing works better. Awesome hub, up useful and beautiful :)

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas

      Lots of great, detailed info! Voted up and awesome! :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Hey Sheri, thanks for reading and I hope these help with your basil bumper crop. Long time no see, hope all is going well.

    • profile image

      Sheri Wellen 6 years ago

      My garden is overflowing with basil! Now I have other ideas as to what to do with it!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Cool :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Phil and Dee - Crystal's lemonade makes for an awesome presentation. She's very much the earth mother type with her herbs, everything organic and sweet nature. I've learned a few things from her.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Holy Schmoley, girl! This hub ROCKS! Sending it off to FB and hitting up and across. Wealth of info-thoroughly enjoyed.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I didn't know anything about tinctures before reading your hub, thanks for sharing this. You get a useful and vote up from me.


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